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When you think of Alaska Airlines, you may only think of the airline's West Coast-focused route map. Indeed, Alaska is one of the busiest airlines in and around Seattle, Alaska and along the West Coast. However, through its Mileage Plan partners, you can use Alaska Airlines miles to fly to more than 900 destinations in more than 170 countries and territories.
The catch? Alaska uses different award charts for each partner airline. This unique award chart opens up some incredible locations you can travel to. Check out these Alaska Airlines sweet spots to maximize your Mileage Plan miles.
Basics of Alaska Mileage Plan
Before you book an award flight on Alaska, it’s essential to get to know the Alaska Mileage Plan frequent flyer program a little better.
When you book paid airfare for flights on Alaska, you’ll earn at least one mile for each mile you fly. That's true even on Alaska "saver fares" — which is Alaska's version of basic economy. Then, you can redeem as few as 5,000 miles for a one-way award flight on Alaska Airlines.
But you can redeem your Mileage Plan miles for much more than just Alaska Airlines flights. Alaska has 23 worldwide airline partners, and you can currently book award flights with Alaska miles on 17 of them — with more coming soon:
When booking online, keep in mind that Cathay Pacific and LATAM awards won't show up in award flight results. If you don’t see a flight you want, you may need to call the airline to book. Note that Alaska charges a $15 fee for phone bookings — even if you can't book an award online.
To maximize your miles, book a stopover. Alaska is one of a few airlines that still allow a free stopover on one-way award flights. That means you can essentially enjoy two destinations for the price of one. You can search stopover awards online using the multi-city booking tool or call an Alaska agent for help.
With some newfound knowledge of how to use your Alaska Airlines miles, let’s take a look five Alaska mileage plan sweet spots.
» Learn more: Guide to the Alaska Airlines award chart
Best Alaska Airlines sweet spots
1. Fly to Central or South America on Alaska or American Airlines
Domestic U.S. Alaska awards in economy climb as high as 50,000 miles each way. But, based on the Alaska award chart, you can fly to anywhere in Central America on either Alaska or American Airlines for just 17,500 miles each way. In practice, it can be even cheaper than that — with some awards to Costa Rica costing 15,000 Alaska miles each way.
If you want to splurge, business/first class awards aren't much more. Business-class awards to Central American on American Airlines require just 27,500 Mileage Plan miles, but you’ll pay at least 30,000 miles to fly in Alaska first class.
Perhaps even sweeter, you only need to pay a few more miles — 20,000 each way in economy or 30,000 each way in business class — to fly American Airlines to northern South America. This includes destinations like Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The flight from Dallas to Lima is roughly seven hours, so that's a great redemption rate for a longer flight.
2. Fly Alaska for as few as 5,000 miles and ski free
During the winter months, Alaska partners with ski resorts to offer flyers the ability to "Fly Alaska, Ski Free." Simply showing your Alaska boarding pass at participating resorts will get you a free day of skiing.
» Learn more: Your guide to Fly Alaska Ski Free
You can take advantage of this promotion by paying as few as 5,000 Alaska miles and still score a free day of skiing. For example, fly on Alaska from Los Angeles to Boise, Idaho, for 5,000 miles. Then, hurry off to the slopes at Bogus Basin to get a free day of skiing upon arrival.
Those based in Seattle can fly to Spokane, Washington, for 5,000 miles and get a free day of skiing upon arrival at Schweitzer Mountain Resort. Or, to really maximize your free day of skiing, cross the border into Canada and score a free day of skiing at RED Mountain Resort any day you want.
Just make sure you read the fine print: At most resorts, you can score a free pass on the same day you fly in only. And at certain resorts, weekends and some holidays are blacked out — so you have to arrive during the week to take advantage of the offer. But if you book a morning flight on a weekday, it’s a great deal to get you out on the slopes.
» Learn more: How to book a ski trip and save cash
3. Visit Fiji or Australia for the same price
Using Alaska miles, you can fly with Fiji Airways from the continental U.S. to Fiji — or anywhere in the South Pacific — for 40,000 miles each way in economy or 55,000 miles each way in business class.
That's a decent rate to jet off to a beautiful destination. But, here's where Alaska's award chart is really quirky: you can connect through Fiji onward to Australia for the same price.
Best of all, you can use Alaska's free stopover policy to visit both destinations for as long as you want. For example, book a week in Fiji before continuing to Sydney and pay just 40,000 miles one-way.
» Learn more: How to maximize the Alaska Airlines Visa Business card
4. Cathay Pacific premium cabin awards to Asia and beyond
If you have enough Alaska miles to redeem for premium cabins — premium economy, business or first class — awards on Cathay Pacific are some of the best Alaska Mileage Plan sweet spots.
For flights from the continental U.S., Alaska or Canada to Asia, Alaska charges 30,000 miles each way for economy. Or, you can upgrade to premium economy for just 5,000 more miles. For a long flight to Asia, you'll appreciate every extra inch of legroom, seat width and recline.
If you have the miles, splurge for Cathay Pacific business class for 50,000 miles each way.
And don't forget to maximize Alaska's stopover policy. For Cathay Pacific flights, that means you can visit Hong Kong for as long as you want before continuing to another destination. This is an excellent way to visit two cities in one trip — such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok or Tokyo.
You also have the option to continue beyond Asia on Cathay Pacific for not many more miles:
From the continental U.S., Canada or Alaska to…
Australia or New Zealand
Africa, Middle East or Indian Subcontinent
5. Fly to Bangkok with a free stopover along the way
This bustling capital city is brimming with culture — and you can absolutely book an award flight with Mileage Plan miles to get there. Several Alaska’s partner airlines, including Korean Air, Japan Air, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines fly to Bangkok.
But before you finalize your plans, check to see where you might be able to book a stopover to make the most of a long flight to Asia. After all, if you’re going to be traveling for so many hours, you might as well spend a few days in Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific’s home base), Tokyo (via Japan Air) or Singapore on the way.
When considering your options, note that Alaska charges the round-trip price for one-way awards on Korean Air. So, you'll definitely want to book a round-trip award if flying Korean Air.
» Learn more: 5 things the Alaska Airlines mileage program gets right
How to earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles
Want to take advantage of some of these Alaska Airlines sweet spots but don't have enough Mileage Plan miles? Thankfully, Alaska offers quite a few ways to earn Mileage Plan miles without flying on Alaska or partner flights.
For many, the easiest way to earn Alaska miles without leaving the ground is to sign up for an Alaska credit card. You primary option here is the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card: Buy one ticket, get one for just the taxes and fees ($0 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) and receive 40,000 bonus miles with this offer. To qualify, make $3,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
While Alaska isn't a transfer partner of any major bank points program, you can transfer points from several hotel partners to Alaska Mileage Plan miles. With Marriott Bonvoy you'll get 1 Alaska mile for every 3 Marriott points transferred, with a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring at least 60,000 points.
You can also earn bonus Mileage Plan miles by:
As a last resort, you can buy Alaska miles. You'll typically need to pay almost 3 cents per mile — which is a steep price to pay for miles. However, Alaska will periodically offer up to 60% bonus miles. You can buy Alaska miles for around 1.85 cents per mile. For some of these sweet spots, that's a rate worth considering if you need to top off your account.
If you're trying to maximize your Alaska Mileage Plan miles
Despite its name, you can fly to many more places than just Alaska with your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles. We just scratched the surface of the Alaska Mileage Plan sweet spots in this post. If you're looking to fly to another destination with your Alaska miles, check out NerdWallet's airline partner award booking tool.
Select "Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Miles" and the region where you want to travel to get recommendations of how to use your Alaska miles to fly there. For example, for flights to Central/South Asia, we recommend redeeming Alaska miles for Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines awards.
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